The new customary marriages law: what you need to know

29 July 2019 - 12:49 By Unathi Nkanjeni
A new law ends gender-based discrimination in monogamous and polygamous marriages entered into before 1998.
A new law ends gender-based discrimination in monogamous and polygamous marriages entered into before 1998.
Image: 123RF/awrangler

The government has passed a new bill that provides for the equal treatment of women in monogamous and polygamous customary marriages in SA, minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said last week.

He said the cabinet approved an amendment to the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA) which will give women who entered into monogamous and polygamous customary marriages prior to 1998 equal rights to marital property.

Here is what you need to know about the new law:

The bill

  • The bill brings Section 7(1) and (2) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (RCMA), 1998 (Act 120 of 1998) in line with the judgments of the Constitutional Court, which declared the sections constitutionally invalid. The sections discriminated unfairly against women in customary marriages.
  • The bill provides for the equal treatment of women in pre-act monogamous and polygamous customary marriages. The amendments eliminate the gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the RCMA of 1998. Spouses will now have joint and equal proprietary rights over marital property.
  • The bill also provides for the equal treatment of women in pre-act monogamous and polygamous customary marriages. The amendments eliminate the gender-based discrimination in polygamous marriages entered into before the commencement of the RCMA of 1998.

"Spouses will now have joint and equal proprietary rights over marital property. This means that husbands will no longer have exclusive proprietary rights over marital property to the detriment of their wives.

"Children can also benefit as they will be able to inherit from the mother as well," Mthembu said.


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